In my travels for The Times, I've inspected hundreds of lodgings in cities foreign and domestic, and slept in more than a few of them. Among those towns were four that, it might be argued, beckon most to Southern Californians: San Francisco, San Diego, London and Paris.
Below, my hotel picks from those four cities, gathered over the past three or four years, and updated for this special section. In most cases, there actually are two lists: a "Top 10 for Style" and "Top 10 for Value." In seeking out hotels with distinctive style, I paid most attention to amenities, design and service; in the search for value, it was price over packaging. Always ask if special rates, packages or discounts (such as AAA) are available when booking.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 6, 1997 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Hotels--Due to an editing error, the Clift Hotel in San Francisco was incorrectly listed as a Four Seasons hotel ("Favorite Hotels in Four Cities," March 30 tabloid section). The Clift (telephone  652-5438) is no longer associated with the Four Seasons chain.
Top 10 for Style
Campton Place. For those who want luxury but don't need a sprawling, glimmering lobby in the St. Francis/Fairmont tradition. Intimate, hushed atmosphere, 117 rooms. Convenient to, but not besieged by, Union Square and its crowds. Brochure rates: $230-$345. Weekends: $230-$325. 340 Stockton St.; telephone (800) 426-3135 or (415) 781-5555.
Four Seasons Clift Hotel. Two blocks from Union Square in the heart of the theater district. Old-world formal setting and service. Five stars (Mobil) and five diamonds (AAA). 329 rooms. Brochure rates: $265-$350. Weekends: $205-$320. 495 Geary St.; tel. (800) 332-3442 or (415) 775-4700.
The Inn at the Opera. Located to suit music and dance lovers (opera, symphony, ballet venues neighbor the building). 48 rooms. Brochure rates: $140-$190. 333 Fulton; tel. (800) 325-2708 or (415) 863-8400.
The Inn at Union Square. Not much space, but miles of style. 30 rooms on six floors. Brochure rates: $140-$195. 440 Post St.; tel. (800) 288-4346 or (415) 397-3510.
The Majestic. Built in 1902 and full of elegant old furnishings. 57 rooms, 30 with fireplaces. Brochure rates: $135-$260. 1500 Sutter St.; tel. (800) 869-8966 or (415) 441-1100.
Mandarin Oriental. In the Financial District, a promising but often-overlooked possibility for upscale-but-not-filthy-rich leisure travelers. The hotel occupies the ground floor and the 38th through 48th floors of the First Interstate skyscraper. Brochure rates: $285-$450. Weekend rates: $249-$450. 222 Samsone St.; tel. (800) 622-0404 or (415) 885-0999.
Hotel Milano. Stands next to the Nordstrom-anchored San Francisco Shopping Centre, a few blocks from the Yerba Buena Arts Center, Union Square. Contemporary Italian design. 108 rooms. Brochure rates: $129-$189. 55 5th St.; tel. (800) 398-7555 or (415) 543-8555.
Petite Auberge and the White Swan Inn. They're siblings, so I'm counting them as one. Petite Auberge is the French country twin; the White Swan Inn, two doors down, is its English counterpart. Both have 26 rooms and are run by Four Sisters Inns. White Swan Inn (brochure rates: $145-$250), 845 Bush St.; tel. (800) 999-9570 or (415) 775-1755. Petite Auberge (rates: $110-$220), 863 Bush St.; tel. (800) 365-3004 or (415) 928-6000.
The Ritz-Carlton. Nob Hill. A 336-room luxury hotel. Antique furnishings. Brochure rates: $300-$525. 600 Stockton; tel. (800) 241-3333 or (415) 296-7465.
The Sherman House. This French-Italianate mansion and its carriage house now house six one-bedroom suites and eight guest rooms, all but one with fireplaces. Member of Relais & Chateaux. 14 rooms. Brochure rates: $210-$775. 2160 Green St.; tel. (800) 424-5777 or (415) 563-3600.
Top 10 for Value
Andrews Hotel. If ever you wondered where the smallest bathrooms in San Francisco hoteldom are, this could be it. But they're clean, and the small rooms to which they're attached are well put together. 48 rooms. Brochure rates: $86-$119. 624 Post St.; tel. (800) 926-3739 or (415) 563-6877.
Hotel Bedford. Renovated top-to-bottom in 1996, the Bedford is sensibly furnished and run by amiable staff. 144 rooms. Brochure rates: $149-$195. 761 Post St.; tel. (800) 227-5642 or (415) 673-6040.
The Carlton Hotel. One of the Kimpton 13--which is to say it's clean and displays a little style and European sensibility, despite its low price. Convenient to Union Square. 158 rooms. Brochure rates: $135. 1075 Sutter St.; tel. (800) 227-4496 or (415) 673-0242.
Chancellor Hotel. Near Union Square on the cable car route. 140 rooms. Behind a modest public face, brass fittings, dark wood wainscoting, other nice touches. Brochure rates: $114-$129. 433 Powell St.; tel. (800) 428-4748 or (415) 362-2004.
The Fitzgerald and the Hotel Sheehan. (Close siblings under the same ownership.) The Fitzgerald has no pretentions, but is clean and convenient to Union Square. 47 rooms. Brochure rates: $59-$119. 620 Post St.; tel. (800) 334-6835 or (415) 775-8100. The Hotel Sheehan, two blocks away, has 68 simple, tidy rooms, nine with shared bathrooms. Brochure rates: $69-$129; "economy" rooms with shared baths, $49. 620 Sutter St.; tel. (800) 848-1529 or (415) 775-6500.